What to do if You Get a Bad Grade
I think I get this question more than any other. It usually goes something like this: “I just found out I got a C/D/F and now I want to know if my med school dreams are dashed. Can I fix this?”
Well for all of you in fear, here is the NotQuiteDoctor’s advice on what to do about getting a bad grade (insert trumpet fanfare).
The first thing I have to say is that I don’t know if your chances are damaged or not. Medical school admissions are dependent on soooooo many factors. From your MCAT and grades to your communication skills to the mood of your interviewer. It’s a human process and thus prone to human errors. Admission committees are trying to objectively decide who will make the best doctors. That is a tough thing to predict.
So what can you do to have the best chances at medical school? Well, see above. Have good grades, a good MCAT, good extracurriculars and a winning personality. Sometimes having all those things isn’t possible. In this instance we are focusing on grades. What happens if you have a weak GPA?
If you have a weak GPA you have to ask yourself a serious question: can you handle med school. They weed people out for a reason…. med school is a hard process. It involves sacrifices you have yet to imagine (including some I have yet to imagine). Unfortunately just having a desire to be a doctor won’t cut it. So is your GPA weak because you can’t hack it? If you think that might be the case then save yourself lots of money and look for another career in health care.
Let’s say you had a bad semester, which happens. External factors always affect academic performances and you can’t help a nasty break up or a death in the family. If this is the case then you really need to evaluate that event and how if affected you. You can’t move on before dealing with your own emotional issues. Do some reflecting and find the lesson in that life event. As you move forward let that be a motivator. I had a very good friend die during one semester. It was horribly painful and I had a tough time with it. But I found a way to make his death mean something and it has been a meaningful part of my life ever since.
When you find that, incorporate it into your personal statement. Explain why you had this rough semester and what you did to move past it. You need to show that you are a fighter and won’t let life steam roll you. Feature this event in a positive way (not in a pity me way). Showing how you have grown can help answer questions about a questionable semester and put forward some of your best qualities.
But what if you were just a mediocre student prior to deciding on medicine? (Which also happens a lot.) Again, I say feature it. Put your best and worst traits out there, showing you aren’t afraid to be honest. It will also, hopefully, show how you have grown and matured as a student. My own personal statement featured the fact that my interest in medicine started out as a selfish endeavor, looking for prestige and respect. But as I learned more about what the profession was, I found a calling for a different reason. Explain that you never cared about academics until you found a passion for X (insert passion here). Hopefully the admissions committee will see that passion and recognize the talent it has bred.
Worst case scenario, you can always do some post-bacc work or get a masters degree to beef up your application. Is it sucky to have to take extra time? Sure. But the real question is, how far will you go to be a doctor? If you aren’t willing to put in a couple extra years to get there, maybe that answers the question for you.
I hope this helps. As I am fond of saying, there is always a chance. Success relies on what you are willing to give to obtain it. I know several doctors who only got in after multiple tries. Best of luck to all you applicants.
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